Legislature votes to close seat belt loophole

ATLANTA – The state legislature has voted to close a loophole in state law that previously exempted the driver and front-seat passenger of pickup trucks from the seat belt requirement.

“This legislation is a long overdue, life-saving step for all Georgians,” state Sen. Don Thomas, R-Dalton, said in a news release. “I am thankful we could all work together to ensure the passage of legislation that will prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries while saving money.”

Officials say more than 2/3 of pickup truck deaths in Georgia can be attributed to people not wearing seat belts, and by closing the loophole, Georgia residents will likely pay less to cover the medical costs of people injured in such crashes. In addition, the state could also see additional federal incentive grants from the Traffic Safety Institute, proponents say; critics disagree.

“There is no federal money to come down if we pass this law,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press quoted Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, as saying.

The state Senate has previously passed similar legislation, but it stalled in the state House. Off-road and pickup trucks involved in agricultural operations are exempt from the new measure.

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